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A hallmark of good leaders is the example they set for those they lead. When it comes to personal finances, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia is setting a good example for troops — and spreading the word.
From the time he was a young Marine, Battaglia said, his leaders set a good example for him in helping him improve his financial well-being.
Battaglia, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and his wife, Lisa, recently took part in a roundtable promoting the benefits of saving and making wise financial moves. They’ve long been in the habit of saving money, and they want to encourage other troops to get into that habit, too.
Lisa Battaglia still makes lunches for her husband to carry to work each day. And he long ago taught himself how to cut his own hair, she said.
Bryan Battaglia said when he was first coming up through the ranks, his senior NCOs sat down with him each month to go over his Leave and Earnings Statement, talking about the money coming into the household and where it was going, and about good financial practices.
He never felt it was an invasion of privacy.
“That’s an effective leadership practice,” he said — one that has diminished over the years. “We need to continue efforts to bring things like that back. It’s vital for our leaders at all levels to counsel our troops on the importance of being financially smart.”
They should advise young troops when they’re preparing to buy a car, get married or have a child, for example, he said.
Early on, the Battaglias communicated as a team to make their financial decisions and meet their goals, and they made a conscious effort to stick to a plan.
It wasn’t without sacrifice. In 16 moves across 27 years of marriage, the Battaglias have had to fork over money for family emergencies and for unforeseen major purchases, just like every other military family.
“But over the years,” Lisa said, “we budgeted and shaped our lifestyle to live off one income.”
For mobile military families, that’s something to consider seriously. A spouse may not be able to find a job at the next duty station right away, or in some cases, not at all. Car payments that were easy at a previous duty station could become impossible.
The Battaglias encourage troops to live within their means.
“Avoid the ‘nice to have’ until it makes sense and you can afford it,” he said. “It’s OK to have second-hand furniture.”
When he and his wife were first starting out, he said, they made do with bookcases crafted from cinder blocks and slats of wood.
You may not have a boss who sits down with you to guide you toward good financial decisions, but there is other help available, tailored for troops and families.
Start with the financial management experts and others at your installation family center, the military relief societies, banks and credit unions on base, and Military OneSource.